Changes and Continuity in Western Europe

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During the period of 1492 to 1750, Europe experienced drastic changes during their Age of Discovery. As a result of contact and colonization, Western Europe’s economy, political, social, and military systems changed, but also maintained certain aspects that enabled them to build strong civilizations. Such changes include increased (international) trade routes, more centralized governments such as monarchies, decreased unifying influence of the Catholic Church, and increased interest in military conquest and expansion.

In terms of the economy, industrialization and manufacturing drove the economy forward, catalyzing change and developments that would contribute to the economy. Advancements in metallurgy produced an increased demand for skilled blacksmiths and detailed metal work. State sponsored trading companies and colonial ventures were investments that had a lasting influence. The ventures were mainly directed at the Americas, which were rich sources of gold, silver, sugar, and other desired goods. This new international trade opened infinite possibilities for the economy to grow and expand. These ventures also brought American crops back to Europe, such as potatoes, which increased specialized agriculture. However, through these increased changes within the economic system, many aspects remained behind. Most notably was in agriculture, where farmers continued relying on the methods and techniques of the Middle Ages, such as the three-field system. Although there were innovations during the 18th century, they were not enough to noticeably improve the productivity, and many old crops were grown along with new crops, which resulted in a lower production of the old crops.

Politically, important changes, mainly the Glorious Revolution, impacted Europe in such a way that there is a lasting impression to this day. The decline in feudal balance resulted in more centralized government states, therefore leading to absolute and parliamentary monarchies. When...
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